Project 1: Everyday Interactions (15%)

This project is an introduction to how designers learn from observing and understanding people interacting with everyday objects. Interactive experiences are ubiquitous, unavoidable and increasingly parts of daily lives. Coffee makers, electronic toys, digital cameras, ATMs, wristwatches, parking terminals are but a few examples of products designed to support a range of everyday human activities. As human needs change, innovation demands that designers be in touch with the requirements and preferences of their audience.

As interaction designers, we can learn how to make better designs by observing people in real situations. We learn to watch, listen and think in order to problem find as well as problem solve. Through analysis of user actions and behaviours, both observed and/or personally experienced, design problems can be identified and addressed.

For this project, each student will choose an everyday object and apply Norman’s usability principles as an analytical framework (affordance, visibility, consistency, mapping, constraint, feedback). By applying this set of criteria in examining our objects, we can spot the problems and look for design opportunities to be addressed in the Project 2.


In order to make this project meaningful and manageable, the following strategies should be noted:
  • read Chapter 1 "What is Interaction Design" (particular attention to Donald Norman's Design Principles) from "Beyond Interaction Design", Preece, et al (2002) and apply these principles in your analysis of your object
  • pick a simple interactive object (eg. alarm clock, ticket dispenser, toy, parking meter, vacuum cleaner)
  • Look for examples of feedback, affordances, visibility, mapping, constraints, and consistency
  • Note the context of use (environment, type of activities, what's around, other things that effect) type of users (people using, effected by and involved) possible user goals (what are people trying to accomplish, more than one goal)
  • Observe others or personally use the object to better understand the user experience (give tasks, watch for success and stumbling blocks, ask neutral questions)
  • take photos of object to include needed details (close-ups), people using, context or other important features to support your points
  • look for interactions that are problematic and suggest new ways of improving these (note a lack of feedback, an awkward affordance, or unclear mapping in your examples, and provide a better way)
  • Use wiki page as workplace but for final deadline, organize wiki page for final presentation


The final deliverable will be a series of text and images to effectively present your findings in clear and understandable manner. This work will be posted in a separate page linked from object index.


Week 1
in class
  • course introduction
  • discussion of wiki and participation
  • introduce project 1
  • discuss concepts: interaction design, user centred-design, design principles, user experience
at home
  • note everyday interactions you experience and observe
  • choose one interactive object for investigation and create page with link from index page
  • read Chapter 1 "What is Interaction Design"
  • document through observation and/or personal experience the interactions
  • take photos and edit - post in wiki

Week 2
in class
  • discuss 1st project with instructor
  • review design principles
  • refine for final submission
at home
  • finalize project 1
Week 3
  • Project 1 due before class
  • Introduction of project 2